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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Die, To Sleep

A few years ago I got into a discussion with Lan about the Vietnam War. I mentioned something about 50,000 dead American troops not being a cost worth the benefit of the war.

“What about a million dead Vietnamese?” he asked. I had no good answer to that. It's a memorable statistic, but not one as close to the hearts of most Americans.

A few days ago tragedy occurred when 33 people died in a shooting at Virginia Tech. A day after that, 157 people were killed in four bombings in Baghdad. The next day, the front page of CNN’s website was covered with Virginia Tech news. As of 9:31 a.m., neither the words “Baghdad” or "Iraq" were on CNN’s homepage. To find a story about the most recent deaths in Baghdad, you have to scroll to the bottom of the New York Times website.

More than 33 people die every day in Iraq, and the Pew Research Center noted that before the Va. Tech tragedy, the comments Don Imus made was the biggest story of 2007. What does it say about us that the greatest tragedy in the world today—the crisis in Darfur—isn’t even in the top five news stories in the US, and that the biggest crisis that our country is directly involved in weighs in at a distant third place?

I’m not sure who I’m criticizing here. It’s not just the media—the media reports what it can sell. It’s not really “ignorance”—that will always be a part of life. If nothing else, it brings up questions: Is this about race? It’s hard to say—America isn’t just a White country, and it’s not like American Muslims distinguish themselves by clamoring for the daily news from Iraq. If nothing else, we can say that Americans as a whole have been equally indifferent to tragedies as they’ve occurred in Vietnam, Rwanda, Darfur, Indonesia, and Yugoslavia. But I guess that's just the way things are sometimes.

For Iraq/Darfur news, look no further than the very bottom of the page, in tiny font.



Blogger Ben said...

Most everyone in America knows someone in college, or remembers being in college, or just in general remebers being young and going to school. The idea of having that place shattered by a crazed man is gripping. I think the immediate thought is "What would I have done if I had been there?"--because most everyone can envision themselves sitting in class.

Who of us faces the daily threat of death and kidnapping from roving Islamist terror gangs?

It's not just a question of ignorance, it's a question of empathy.

10:55 AM  

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